Visiting Sydney with kids under 4

I probably have a few more posts about Sydney kicking around, but I thought I’d do a general post about visiting Sydney with little kids, as it’s an easy vacation destination from Singapore.

We flew Singapore Airlines both ways, and I have nothing but good things to say about them.  There were little gifts for the kids (a stuffed shrek head for Rhi, a coloring set for Ellie), pre-school tv on demand (Sesame Street, Handy Manny, My Little Pony, Little Einsteins, etc) along with kid-sized headphones, and nothing but smiles and kind words for my girls (even when Elanor pushed the call button several times when she was sitting with my in-laws). While they’re more expensive then other options, if you can, I would spring for the airfare (in fact, I’ve insisted that I’m springing for Singapore Airlines when I fly solo with the girls to the US this summer)

We stayed at the Shangri-La hotel in The Rocks section of Sydney.  While the rooms were great, the views spectacular, and the room service delicious (a shocker for this hotel veteran-room service is usually awful), it is located at the top of a hill so steep that stairs are cut into it.  Which led me to my first major disillusionment about Sydney–Parts of Sydney resemble San Francisco.  I had not expected it to be so difficult to push a stroller around.

If we returned, I’m not so sure that we would stay there again as long as we were pushing a stroller up the mountain hill…in the street, which was not so fun OR we were taking long circuitous paths back to avoid stairs/hills taller than Mount Doom.  If you travel to Sydney, pick your hotel thoughtfully.

Must see places included the Aquarium and the Wild Life Zoo, both in Darling Harbour (see, I spelled it right this time, K!).  Also worth a stop is the playground behind the IMAX theater in Darling Harbour, which for the record was what Elanor said was her favorite part of the entire trip.

We went to Taronga Zoo, but it looks like it hasn’t been refreshed since my husband saw it at age 8 in 1985.  There is very little to recommend Taronga–it doesn’t have anything you can’t find at Wild Life, the Aquarium or our own Singapore Zoo (and there are some giant spiders spinning webs in the trees over the walkways, if that happens to freak you out as much as it does me).  The ride on the ferry to and from the zoo was the highlight for me.

I would also highly recommend the Australian Museum.  I left Ellie behind, thinking she’d either be too hyper or too bored by a museum.  Little did I know that they’ve designed kiosks and connections throughout the exhibits to specifically engage kids under 5.  I was pretty disappointed I didn’t take her by the end.  (For adults/older kids, there’s a really great exhibit on the social activism and justice issues surrounding the way the aboriginal peoples were treated by the Europeans that really impressed me as well).

While traveling with kids is by no means painless, it is a very different look at a city than you’d have as a child-less (or partner-less) adult.  For example, while my attention was captured by things like architectural details on older buildings, Ellie’s sharp eye saw this sign.  She was thrilled, and demanded to have her picture taken by a giant “3” because she’s three.  She didn’t “get” the jokes on the bus tour, but she pointed out some beautiful flowers hanging from a basket.  She didn’t appreciate the high quality beef at the restaurants, but had a great time throwing McDonald’s french fries to the seagulls.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing (apart from the sidewalk stairs) were the cab drivers.  It is worth noting that Australia (or at least Sydney) has a car seat law for kids under 1.  Which is great.  Except that most cab drivers just refuse the fare of a family with a baby rather than deal with you.  I happen to have a stroller set up where my car seat attaches to a stroller frame, and I had a multitude of cab drivers tell me that my car seat (a) wasn’t a car seat (b) wasn’t safe–it has the highest safety rating in the US at the time of purchase (c) wouldn’t fit in their car or just flat out refused my fare because of the baby even after I showed them that it was a car seat.  They also refused fares that they felt were too short.  After three days of fighting with cab drivers, I actively began to try to plan my day to not need them (or to deal with them as infrequently as possible).  They are truly some of the most unpleasant drivers I’ve dealt with…and I lived in New York City at one time.

Sydney wasn’t what I expected (there was a distinct lack of kangaroos hopping about, for one–WTF TV, have you taught me nothing true?) but it was a fun city to have a laid back family vacation.  I think it’s probably an easier trip if all your kids can walk (call it three+?) or if you baby wear because of all the stairs, but definitely worth visiting while your kids are young.

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2 Responses to Visiting Sydney with kids under 4

  1. KJ says:

    Australian taxi driver’s are appalling, always have been and I assume always will be. Which explains why I am mystified when I hear people complaining about the taxi drivers in Singapore! Australia has not really embraced the stroller-and-car-seat-in-one concept so that may explain a little why they treated you the way they did (explain, but not excuse!).

    The Rocks area is beautiful but bloody hard to negotiate. I’ve done it with a stroller and it brought me to tears when I arrived at Circular Quay after a long and stressful walk and was faced with an enormaous flight of stairs and a hefty 2 year old.

    Taronga Zoo, yes, I agree. They trade on their incredible view but need to start bringing the zoo up to date.

    I’m glad you enjoyed your trip!

    And well done for spelling Harbour the proper way! 😉

    • Crystal says:

      I was hoping you’d see that!

      I really did have a blast there. I can’t wait to see more of Australia on future trips.

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